Countdown to Halloween: My Favorite Films (2000 -2009)

Aaah…my favorite holiday is just 10 days away. I’ve been listening to Halloween Radio (Stay tuned for some 80’s Blasts, Halloween-style) and the songs they’ve been playing had me reminiscing about chillers, thrillers, magic, and things that go bump in the night…

So, I compiled a list of all the movies I especially like/love that contain elements of occult, fantasy, horror, sci-fi – or any combination thereof. Super-favorites are highlighted in RED and Diego has highlighted those films starring fab Felines.

On tap in today’s Post are three Masters of Surrealism:
Guillermo del Toro, M. Night Shyamalan, Tarsem Singh.
Unforgettable dark, disturbing, and stunning imagery.

Blade II  Diego's pick
First sequel to the 1998 movie with Wesley Snipes reprising his role as the title character. The big difference between this and the original is the appearance of the vampires themselves. Suffice to say, a virus has caused them to evolve into a mutant species called “Reapers“. This extraordinarily-horrifying transformation was born out of the imagination of the Director, Guillermo del Toro (Mimic), a one-time special effects make-up artist whose creations are extraordinarily distinct.
Blade: Trinity
Third installment in the series, with Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel joining Snipes in the war against The Reapers and a newly-resurrected Dracula. Not to be missed:  Wrestler Triple H and his Reaper Pomeranian, Pac-Man.

Music by Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones, Westworld, Fright Night 2011).

Cameos:  Eric Bogosian and James Remar (What Lies Beneath).

BloodRayne spawned a series, but the original remains the best. “The film centers on the character of Rayne, an unholy breed of human and vampire called a ‘Dhampir’.” (Wikipedia)
Filmed in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania (home to Bram Stoker’s Dracula) it contains an impressive array of stars:  Michael Madsen, Billy Zane, Udo Kier (Blood for Dracula, Blade), Michael Paré, Meat Loaf (Rocky Horror Picture Show), Michelle Rodriguez, and Ben Kingsley.
Brotherhood of the Wolf
This is not your average werewolf story. “The film is loosely based on a real-life series of killings that took place in France in the 18th century and the famous legend of the Beast of Gévaudan…” (Wikipedia)  Originally released in French (with subtitles) an English-dubbed version is now available.
There’s a great martial-arts scene courtesy of Mark Dacascos (Chairman on Iron Chef America, The Island of Dr. Moreau). Although played by a very handsome French actor (Samuel Le Bihan), Dacascos’ traveling companion looks a lot like Triple H (Blade: Trinity). Vincent Cassel (Tale of Tales) and Monica Bellucci (The Brothers Grimm, Bram Stoker’s Dracula) also star.

Belluci and Cassel were married from 1999-2013.

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant
I like my vampire movies either very traditional (the 1931 and 1992 versions of Dracula) or with a unique representation (Blade II). I do not like them “bloodless” (Twilight), but I don’t mind a little humor thrown in – if it’s clever. Cirque du Freak was very satisfying on all levels.
Based on the book, “The Vampire’s Assistant”, this flick is chock-full of vampires, sideshow freaks, ghoulish “Little People”, a werewolf, and one beautiful spider named Madame Octa who’s intelligent, telepathic, and deadly.
Starring  Chris Massoglia, John C. Reilly and Salma Hayek (who appeared together in Tale of Tales), Ken Watanabe, Ray Stevenson, Patrick Fugit, Jane Krakowski, Orlando Jones, Frankie Faison, Colleen Camp, and Willem Dafoe (Shadow of the Vampire).
Constantine  Diego's pick
I love Keanu Reeves (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Devil’s Advocate) so this was a must-see, especially given its occult overtones. I’ve watched the movie many times and find I catch something new with each viewing. Developed by DC Comics, the character of John Constantine (Reeves) is portrayed here as a chain-smoking, attempted suicide seeking Heaven’s salvation by exorcising demons. There are possessions, angels (and demons), voodoo, prophecies, a holy artifact, and Lucifer himself – with L.A. visually transformed into a post-nuclear war zone.
I especially liked Tilda Swinton as the androgynous half-breed angel, Gabriel – and speaking of half-breeds, Gavin Rossdale plays a half-demon named Balthazar who looks like he just stepped out of the pages of GQ Magazine.
Dog Soldiers
I’m as picky about werewolf films as I am about vampire flicks, and really appreciated the fresh storyline here – Dog Soldiers was original enough to hold my interest and garner a spot on this list!
A squad of British soldiers are attacked by unseen predators and are forced to take refuge in a seemingly deserted house somewhere in the Scottish Highland. (They never learn, do they?)
According to Wikipedia:  “The film contains homages to H. G. Wells as well as the films The Evil Dead, Zulu, Aliens, The Matrix and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.”
‘Kayso, let me say right up front I don’t harbor a love for zombies, but this dark comedy is seriously clever. Picture a 1950’s stereotypical suburbia teeming with post-apocalyptic zombies. Nicely done with nods to George Romero (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead), Peyton Place, and Lassie.

Starring Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix), with a standout performance by Billy Connolly as “Fido”.

Final Destination
Movies can give me the “heebie-jeebies”, unnerve me, even make me cover my eyes, but few cause me to jump. (There was this one scene…I was sitting on the floor with one of my cats, watching the movie and petting her at the same time. I never saw “it” coming and jerked abruptly causing my cat to react, as well.)

DON’T heed the critiques and DON’T read any synopses, but DO see this movie. (Oh, and forget the repetitiously boring sequels.)

Jeepers Creepers  Diego's pick
Promotional TV ads had me thinking this was a movie about a HUMAN serial killer, so I blew it off. However, late one night I tuned into cable and landed right in the middle of Jeepers Creepers. (Like Final Destination, I’m not giving away any of the good stuff. The good stuff meaning every hair-raising, disturbing minute.)
The Creeper is not your run-of-the-mill, not-of-this-world demon. He (it?) has a twisted sense of humor, an artistic (albeit gruesome) eye, and a unique method of regeneration.
Francis Ford Coppola‘s (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) studio, American Zoetrope, is behind this gem which stars Gina Phillips, Justin Long, Eileen Brennan, Jonathan Breck (as The Creeper), and a bunch of really pissed-off cats.

Note:  All I want for Christmas is this Creeper action figure….

Pitch Black
OK, a Sci-Fi horror flick about predatory aliens on a deserted planet. Sound familiar? Guess again. This one’s different and the aliens are as elegantly graceful as Giger’s Alien. (There are a lot of them, too!)
Directed by David Twohy (The Arrival) and starring Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, and Keith David (They Live). Graeme Revell (The Craft) composed the score.
(Did I mention Vin Diesel? Along with Michelle Rodriguez, they have the sexiest voices. EVER.)
Note:  The (impressive) shoulder-dislocation stunt was performed by Diesel “with minimal CGI enhancement”.
Shadow of the Vampire
“The film is a fictionalised account of the making of the classic vampire film Nosferatu…directed by F. W. Murnau, in which the film crew begin to have disturbing suspicions about their lead actor (Max Schreck). The film borrows the techniques of silent films, including the use of intertitles to explain elided action, and iris lenses.” (Wikipedia)  (That pretty much sums it up.)
An excellent cast:  John Malkovich, Cary Elwes (Bram Stoker’s Dracula), Eddie Izzard, Catherine McCormack, Udo Kier (Blood for Dracula, Flesh for Frankenstein, Blade, BloodRayne), and Willem Dafoe (The Hunger, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant) as Shreck.
Schreck means “fright” in English.
Shadow of the Vampire was produced by Nicolas Cage‘s Saturn Films.
Three of the actors appeared in other vampire films:  Udo Kier (Flesh for Frankenstein, Blood for Dracula, Blade, BloodRayne), Cary Elwes (Bram Stoker’s Dracula), and Willem Dafoe (The Hunger, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant) – while Nicolas Cage starred in Vampire’s Kiss. (Keepin’ it in the family…)
M. Night Shyamalan became a household name with the Sixth Sense (“I see dead people.”). While I enjoyed that movie, Signs had more of an impact on me. Perhaps it was the this-could-actually-happen feel and the escalating tension. Like The Mothman Prophecies, there’s a point in the movie where something that’s happened in the past turns out to be prophetic. A sign. A forewarning that didn’t make sense until the time came… Shyamalan is a master at quiet suspense – generating fear without slapping you in the face with it.
Stars Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, and Abigail Breslin – with a cameo by Shyamalan himself.
The Brothers Grimm
When it comes to fairytales, please let them be GRIM.

adj. forbidding or uninviting; menacing, dark, macabre

Shot in the Czech Republic and starring Matt Damon and Heath Ledger (as the Grimm brothers), the movie paints a “fictitious portrait of the Brothers Grimm as traveling con-artists in French-occupied Germany, during the early 19th century.” (Wikipedia)  The storyline weaves together bits of Rapunzel, Snow White, Red Riding Hood, and Hansel & Gretel. Co-stars Lena Headey and Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones), the gorgeous Monica Bellucci (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Brotherhood of the Wolf), and Peter Stormare (Constantine). Directed by Terry Gillam.

The Cell  Diego's pick
A masterpiece of imagery, I never get tired of watching The Cell. Unlike Jeepers Creepers, this one is about a human serial killer, Carl Stargher (played by Vincent D’Onofrio). “Child psychologist Catherine Deane (Jennifer Lopez, Anaconda) is hired to conduct an experimental virtual reality treatment for coma patients: a ‘Neurological Cartography and Synaptic Transfer System’ device…that allows her to enter a comatose mind and attempt to coax them into consciousness.” (Wikipedia)
When Stargher falls into a coma during his capture, Deane is pursuaded by an FBI agent (Vince Vaughn) to enter Stargher’s mind in order to locate his latest victim before she dies. The dream-like sequences that take place inside the killer’s mind are chilling, often masochistic – yet arrestingly beautiful thanks to director Tarsem Singh’s  vision and costumes by Eiko Ishioka (Bram Stoker’s Dracula – for which she won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design).
Artistic inspiration came from Damien Hirst, Odd Nerdrum, H. R. Giger (the Alien movie franchise), the Brothers Quay, Mark Romanek, and Floria Sigismondi.
The Mothman Prophecies
A parapsychological thriller based on the 1975 book of the same name, The Mothman Prophecies is loosely constructed from actual events that occurred in Point Pleasant, WV. I watched it because I’m a fan of Richard Gere who stars as the film’s protaganist. What captured my attention was the precognitive aspects that were very similar to those in M. Night Shyamalan‘s Signs, and the fact that unexplained sightings and phenomena in Point Pleasant at the time of the actual events were documented and are on record. Definitely creepy.
Co-stars Will Patton, Debra Messing, and Laura Linney.
Thir13en Ghosts
What made this remake WORK is the painstainking care that was taken creating backstories for the ghosts – which are included in the DVD (Thirteen Ghosts Revealed). The house imprisoning them isn’t your standard haunted mansion either. The multi-storied manse is a moving puzzle made of glass (Ectobar Glass etched with barrier spells) named Basileus’s Machine (“designed by the Devil and powered by the dead”) which is powered by a huge machine: Ocularis Infernum (Latin for “Eye of Hell”).

The 13 Ghosts comprise the Black Zodiac (The First Born Son, The Torso, The Bound Woman, The Whithered Lover, The Torn Prince, The Angry Princess, The Pilgrimess, The Great Child and The Dire Mother, The Hammer, The Jackal, and The Juggernaut) + 1 (The Broken Heart). These specific earth-bound spirits are necessary to gain access to the Ocularis Infernum, granting one all the powers of Hell. CGI is used judiciously but effectively – like with the “split lawyer” (J.R. Bourne). (The opening scene takes place in a car junkyard and is especially gruesome.)
Thir13en Ghosts is a movie I watch over and over again…
Stars Tony Shalhoub, Embeth Davidtz (Fallen), Matthew Lillard, Shannon Elizabeth, and F. Murray Abraham.

What Lies Beneath
I always enjoy watching both Michelle Pfeiffer (Wolf, The Witches of Eastwick, Batman Returns) and Harrison Ford. This is an adult-oriented ghost story with a nice twist at the end.
Co-stars a favorite of mine:  James Remar (Blade Trinity).

What Lies Beneath received four Saturn Awards nominations.

My favorite (Halloween) films from 1950-1959
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1960-1969
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1970-1979
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1980-1989
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1990-1999
My favorite (Halloween) films from 2000-2009
My favorite (Halloween) films from 2010-2017

ℳ –

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